Senior Reece Cordray didn’t let any doubt creep in for a Verona boys hockey team’s attack that was stuck in neutral in a penalty-filled second period against Middleton in a Big Eight Conference showdown.

Verona entered the third period with a one-goal lead, but the Wildcats erupted for four goals in the third, including two by Cordray to slam the door on the Cardinals in a 6-2 win on Friday, Jan. 20, at the Verona Ice Arena that clinched an outright conference championship.

“We knew we had to come out hard, play our game and not worry about the refs,” Cordray said.

It marks the sixth straight Big Eight title for Verona.

“It’s definitely more special when you are a senior,” Cordray said. “We have built a great culture here thanks to Marsh (Joel Marshall). Top to bottom, all of the guys are bought in and wanting to win every day. It’s definitely just a stepping stone for the boys. If we can beat Edgewood and a couple of other good teams we will get the No. 1 seed for our side of the playoffs.”

Hours after celebrating the groundbreaking for a new hockey arena, the Wildcats then rallied from a two-goal deficit to clip Madison Edgewood 5-4 on Saturday, Jan. 21, at the Verona Ice Arena.

Verona (14-4, 10-1 Big Eight) entered the Big Eight clash with Middleton with a six-point lead in conference, but a one-game lead over the Cardinals in the loss column.

“Getting a banner hung in the rink is something they will be able to look at forever,” Verona coach Joel Marshall said. “That is something these guys pride themselves on. It’s all about giving them the recognition they deserve for the time and effort they put in. This is a big one they circled on the calendar this year and for this week knowing what it meant.”

Verona 6, Middleton 2

Verona junior forward Garrison Codde had two goals. Senior forward Conrad Moline had one goal and two assists, while Cordray added two assists.

Verona had 10 penalties, including five for 10 minutes in the second period. The Cardinals finished 2-for-10 on the power play. The Wildcats stymied Middleton for stretches despite playing down a man and flourished by scoring two short-handed goals in the third period.

“They knew that third period was a 17-minute championship,” Marshall said. “They get in that championship mindset from all of these years and they overcame adversity.”

The Wildcats stunned the Cardinals with two goals in the first three minutes in the third period. Verona junior defenseman David Dina scored on assists from junior forward Charlie McGinnis and senior forward Blake Herburger at 1 minute, 55 seconds in the third. Only 26 seconds later, Cordray scored on passes from Moline and senior forward Jack Marske to give the Wildcats a 4-1 lead.

The Wildcats scored their first short-handed goal when Cordray took a centering pass near the net, completed a shot fake and then buried a shot under Middleton senior goaltender Cam Haynes’ pads to extend Verona’s lead to 5-1 at 5:36. Both Moline and senior defenseman Cael Pertzborn assisted on the score.

“We did a good job of battling adversity through the game and we earned our good luck,” Moline said.

Middleton had at least a man advantage for about a six minute stretch in the third period, but Verona killed three penalties.

“We have no issue blocking shots and putting our body on the line for the team,” Moline said. “It means a lot for us to go out and kill those.”

Despite having a 5-on-4 advantage, Codde scored a short-handed goal on an assist by Cordray at 15:02 in the final period.

Early on, it looked like it would be a game that would go down to the wire. Codde scored on a breakaway at 15:27 in the first period when a defenseman chipped the puck up the ice.

When Cordray got triple teamed late in the second, he made a pass to Moline at the top of the left wing at the top of the circle. Moline fired a shot inside the near post that found the back of the net to give the Wildcats a 2-1 lead at 11:11 in the second period.

Middleton sophomore defenseman Eli Covey answered with a power-play goal on an assist by senior forward Drew Sjowall at 14:25 to cut the Wildcats’ lead to 2-1.

“We weren’t that disciplined and we have to clean up that end of it,” Marshall said.

Marshall said some of the penalties are on the Wildcats for needing to improve stick work and some were result from not moving their feet and the Cardinals tripping on Verona’s sticks.

“I feel like there were about 10 minutes of penalties we killed in that second period,” he said. “We killed off so much of that second. I could have been yelling at them for discipline and penalties. We kind of switched it and said, ‘Hey, we killed off that much. That’s awesome. We didn’t get down on them. We just killed off 10 minutes of power play against the No. 1 scorer in the state.”

Middleton’s Brady Engelkes leads the state with 35 goals and is tied for the most points with Sauk Prairie's Luke Mast (52).

Verona 5, Edgewood 4

Moline scored the game-winning goal with 1:34 left in the third period to cap the Wildcats' comeback win over the Crusaders.

The game-winner was assisted by freshman defenseman Grady Miller and Marske. Moline finished with two goals and Marske had two goals and one assist. Cordray had three assists and senior defenseman Lars Brotzman added two assists.

Edgewood led by two goals in the second period after Matt Richter’s goal at 15:57. Marske scored with 20 seconds left in the second to cut the Crusaders’ lead to 4-3. Cordray assisted on the score.

Verona senior forward Charlie Scadden scored a game-tying goal on assists from junior forward Henry Mizelle and Brotzman at 9:05 in the third period to tie the game at 4. That set the stage for Moline’s dramatic finish.

Early on, the game appeared like it would go down to the final period. Edgewood’s Peter Carroll scored at 2:47 on assists from Michael Baer and Ben Block. About five minutes later, the Wildcats responded with Marske scoring on assists from Cordray and Brotzman. Richter then scored a power-play goal at 12:26 to give the Crusaders a 2-1 lead.

Moline also scored a game-tying goal on a pass from Cordray at 14:17 in the second period.

The Wildcats outshot the Crusaders 37-33. Edgewood went 1-for-5 on the power play and Verona was 0-for-5. Junior goalie Blake Craven stopped 29 of the 33 shots he faced.

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